5 March 2014

A fortune to be made in mobile apps

By Augustus Raymond Segar

WhatsApp, Instagram, Flipboard, Angry Birds, and Emoji Pop are some of the most well-known mobile applications today.

You could have accessed them only seconds ago on your mobile device while enjoying a latte before meeting up a friend to watch The Lego Movie. While waiting, you capture a few shots of your coffee with Instagram and applied image filters before posting the picture online. Your Facebook friends comment on your visually enhanced post, and you interact with them online. While browsing the status update, you stumble on a friend’s request for help with Emoji Pop puzzle. Since you bookmarked the link to the answers for all Emoji Pop on your mobile web browser, you reply the post. Now, in all seriousness, does this make your latte taste different? Maybe not, but the fact that your mobile device is installed with various apps/games allow you to go online and reply to Facebook comments amidst other online interactions may add value to the overall experience of having coffee while waiting for a friend.

We are slowly evolving into a society that relies heavily on mobile devices. Businesses, educational institutions and even public authorities are waking up to this reality and integrating the emerging “experience technology” into their services so as to meet the changing expectations of their tech-savvy clientele.

This is an opportunity for local talents to venture into mobile content development for the local and global marketplace as indie apps/games developers. You are interested but where do you start? First of all, you need to have the motivation and perseverance. Your motivation could be from something as simple as your childhood dream – to develop games.

Like any masterpiece, you need inspiration. Look at App Store, Windows Phone Apps+Games store or Google Play and analyse the trend. For example, in App Store, a number of apps related to education are categorised under “Previous Editor’s Choice”. Connect this to your surroundings. Sarawak has a rich heritage and this includes local folklores. So, your focus could be interactive story telling for education, based on these folklores, such as the story of Apai Saloi (Saloi’s father). Tap into the local content. Those are resources that could inspire your mobile content. It is also an approach to preserve our beautiful Sarawak heritage.

Now, imagine a game based on various tattoos in the mystical island of Borneo, with local myth inspiring each design level, accompanied by soothing sape music and mysterious rainforest chant, crafted and immortalised in a Role Playing Game.

Record your ideas and observation in a journal, and create a mind map to explore and develop your ideas. You might come up with numerous interesting ideas by this process. Once you have a settled on a concept, you are ready to enter the pre-production phase. Storyboards, character concepts, environment and design level will be prepared. The production phase will be the most crucial stage. This is where assets such as 3D models and beautifully designed graphical user interface will be produced. Assets will be imported to the Integrated Development Environments (IDE), Software Development Kit (SDK) or game engine where codes will be written. There are various IDE, SDK or game engine you could use and this include Corona Labs and Unity, which support cross-platform development. Free graphics editor such as GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) and open source 3D software such as Blender are favourite tools of indie developers. Test your apps/games thoroughly on the devices to ensure that they perform and behave as intended. The final step is to submit your apps/games to the store and wait for approval.

As with any product, social media plays an important role in creating awareness and driving traffic to your apps/games. Upload promo videos of your apps/games on YouTube, post it on Facebook and get your friends to share it on their wall. At the end of the day, it is a business and you want to make money out of what you do. And what could be better than making money out of something you love doing?

There will be challenges and rewards but take heart. Dong Nguyen, the Vietnamese creator of Flappy Bird earned an average of US$50,000 a day from in-app advertising revenue alone, according to Forbes.com. Super Ball Juggling, which is the No. 4 top game, and Shuriken Block, the 15th-most-popular game in the Apple App Store, are also his creations.

Making it big in the apps/games industry is, therefore, not an impossible dream.

Augustus Raymond Segar is a multimedia design lecturer and Associate Dean (Design) with the Faculty of Business and Design at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. He teaches 3D animation and modelling, and subjects related to new technologies such as Unity to create interactive content for various platforms, including mobile. Augustus is contactable at asegar@swinburne.edu.my